Baroness Hale Launches Family Advice Clinic

1 MCBs family law pop up clinic: the first time any Barristers' Chambers has set up an access to justice arrangement of this type.

We are very pleased to announce that a monthly pop-up pro bono family law clinic was launched at 1MCB on 4 November 2014 by Baroness Hale.

Pop-Up@1MCB was set up in response to the all-time high demand for pro bono advice following the government’s cuts to legal aid, which have excluded thousands of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people from accessing justice, particularly in the areas of housing, immigration, welfare rights and criminal law, which most affect family cases. The clinic is a partnership between 1MCB, South Westminster Legal Advice CentreChildren and Families Across Borders and LawWorks, and is the first of its kind.

Baroness Hale is one of the best-known Judges in the country, having spent 30 years in the Law Commission, twenty years in the High Court and ten years in the Supreme Court, where she is now the Deputy President.  Launching the clinic, she said:

“In the ... Supreme Court we realise that things have changed out of all recognition over the last 18 months. We are getting applications for permission to appeal to us from litigants in person on a much larger scale than we ever used to get.  Judges and lawyers have to learn new skills when dealing with litigants who are unrepresented.  You have to appear to be as fair as you possibly can.  The people it is worse for is the litigants themselves. Nobody is rational about their own family law situation.  “The South Westminster Law Centre is under huge pressure and are very lucky to have a Barristers’ Chambers to turn to for expert advice."

Lord Anthony Gifford QC, who up the very first Law Centre back in 1970, said:

“To me this is quite an emotional occasion, and I want to congratulate the members of my Chambers who have launched this clinic to try to fill some of the gaps which are beginning to appear in the Legal Aid provision in family work.  It takes me back to the 70s when I was involved in the beginning of the Law Centre movement. In theory there was a Legal Aid scheme, but in practice no lawyers willing and able to operate it.  The Law Centres and the solicitors firms, the public interest firms that came out of that movement, the barristers’ Chambers that came out of that movement, turned the ideals of justice for all into a reality.  I am very distressed to see the way in which that ideal has been compromised by government policies which weaken the rule of law. This experiment is a small attempt, but a very important attempt, to put this right.”

Julie Clarke, Practice Manager at 1MCB, said:

"Since the Legal Aid changes we have seen a marked increase in the number of clients coming to our clinics for advice on family law matters. Often they are emotionally distressed, confused by the court system and unable to put their case clearly. Their cases involve such basic issues as access to their children, protection from domestic violence, housing and finance. They need, but cannot afford, proper legal advice. It can be heart-rending. The family law Pop-Up@1MCB will be hugely valuable in assisting such clients to obtain justice. We are delighted to have pioneered it."